Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Newsmax on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "gaslighting" when threatening the use of nuclear weapons to "defend" territory he's trying to annex in Ukraine.
"He's losing," Graham said during "Rob Schmitt Tonight" on Wednesday. "He's losing on the battlefield, and about 20 political figures [in Russia] call for him to resign."
Putin ordered that biggest mobilization since World War II on Wednesday, calling up 300,000 military reservists as he tries to annex a large section of Ukraine about the size of Hungary, Reuters reported.
"If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people: This is not a bluff," Reuters reported Putin saying in a televised address to the nation. "In its aggressive anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed every line. This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them."
Graham said that Putin's rhetoric cannot be allowed to deter Western nations from defending Ukraine and that "half of Europe" would suffer fallout from a nuclear strike in the region.
"We can't let that deter defending Ukraine. And if he did use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, it would radiate half of Europe and that would be an attack on NATO; so I don't think he's going to do that," Graham said. "Calling up the reserves means the Russian army is broken. And really, the people fighting this war for Russia are ill-trained, ill-equipped and they don't have the heart in it."
President Joe Biden spent most of his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York Wednesday railing against Russia and its invasion of Ukraine in February.
"Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations charter — no more important than the clear prohibition against countries taking the territory of their neighbor by force," Biden said Wednesday. "Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime. Now Russia is calling — calling up more soldiers to join the fight. And the Kremlin is organizing a sham referendum to try to annex parts of Ukraine, an extremely significant violation of the U.N. charter."
Graham said Biden's speech was "OK to stand up to Russia," but that the president's weak foreign policy, including the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year emboldened Putin to go into Ukraine.
"President Biden's problem is that Afghanistan looms large," he said. "Do you really think Putin would have invaded Ukraine if [former President Donald] Trump were president? Once you withdrew from Afghanistan and pulled the plug, and turned the country over to the terrorists, you set in motion, I think, the Ukraine envisioned by Russia."
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